They Did "The Bash"
Today, while the thermometer in my office reads 80 degrees, and I chomp on a lime-flavored popsicle, I thought I'd take some time out of my busy schedule to review a rather obscure arcade game from the 80s. From 1982 to be exact. It's called Monster Bash. Have you heard of it? Have you seen it? Have you actually played it? If so, I envy you. I swear I saw it ONCE back when I was about six years old in the back room of a ghetto ice cream funplex type of place.
Anyhoo, we start with the opening screen that also introduces us to our three levels:
Dracula House, Frankenstein Castle, and Chameleon Man Graveyard. Wow, it seems that this game is based around the classic Universal Monsters of the first half of the 20th Century! Everybody has seen the Bela Lugosi Dracula, the Frankenstein of Boris Karloff, and the Chameleon Man... wait, there is no movie called Chameleon Man. I guess the Wolf Man was too expensive or something? Let's see what they look like:
Yeah, I don't remember seeing a movie with that guy in it. Why does Frankie have his back to us? Or maybe he's just turning his back on poor Chameleon Man, making the statement that "He's not good enough to be among us, Dracula & Frankenstein's Monster, the TRUE monster legends. We P0wn joo."
Once you put a quarter in and start playing you get a little introductory scene to help familiarize yourself with the game and its many aspects.
"I am the HERO," says a small red and yellow, um, I'm gonna say monkey, who looks like his head is on fire. Is that a monkey? I really can't tell. Anyway, after coming out and saying that he's a hero, he runs like a coward from the three monsters. I'm not saying I wouldn't run, but I don't go around proclaiming that I'm a hero. Stick to your guns, monkey! The monsters soon get bored chasing around a cowardly monkey with its hair on fire and retire to their various villas.
Then the cowardly monkey returns and shows us how to exact an horrible revenge on the monsters. There's this thing that looks kind of like a cross between a cross and a sword stuck in the ground:
When the HERO touches it, he is imbued with awesomeness, and even though he doesn't look any different, he now has the ability to SUPERZAP evil! That's much better than slamming evil in my opinion. First HERO SUPERZAPs Dracula:
Turning him into a pile of blood and pus! That's extraordinarily gross! The HERO then turns his SUPERZAP on Frankie and promptly liquefies the poor, misunderstood monster. Then the HERO decides, "what the heck?" and kills Chameleon Man as well. Not that anyone really cared. Just seemed like the next logical step.
All right, enough of the demo, let's get to the actual gameplay! Yee-haw! Monster Bash isn't one of those games where you have to fight through a whole bunch of enemies or levels or whatever to get to the boss of the level. No, in Monster Bash the "boss" is always present in the level, trying to kill you. You just have to kill him first. And that's the basic goal of the game. There is only one button in Monster Bash, and that is your zap button. The HERO shoots out little tiny bullets of some sort or other. You use this to clear out little enemies in the level. They soon respawn somewhere else in the level, but at least they're out of your burning hair for a while. The good news is that you can actually zap in the four cardinal directions, so even if enemies are above or below you, you can still get 'em. The bad news is your regular zap is useless against the big bad of the level. "How do you beat him?" you ask? By following this three-step plan to personal success:
Light a candle.
There is at least one candle in each level. All right, so there's five candles in Drac's Castle and only one each in Frankie's level and Chameleon Man's level. Lighting a candle causes the cross/sword halfbreed thing to have a nice, psychedelic freakout and start flashing shiny colors. This leads us directly to step 2:
Touch the cross/sword thing.
Once you touch the cross/sword thing you'll be able to SUPERZAP exactly one time (by the way, if you touch the thing before lighting a candle, it just kinda harmlessly flashes and you can't do nothing but regular zapping like a loser).
SUPERZAP the big bad.
If you miss, you'll have to light a candle again and touch the cross thing again before you can try again. So make your SUPERZAP shot count.
The first level is Dracula's House, just as the opening screen would lead you to believe. It's a tall house with many ladders leading between five different floors, and some warp doors that can take you (and Drac) from the top floor to the bottom and vice-versa.
The smaller enemies in this level are the little bats you see hanging from the ceilings. You can just regular zap them out of the way if you want, but they're really not much of a threat until they start actually flying around.
This level can actually be beaten in a matter of seconds due to the fact that there are candles practically littering the whole house. Just touch one, run over the cross/sword, and jam a SUPERZAP down Drac's ass and you're done.
Well, not quite. In order to commemorate the fact that you've just killed one of the most legendary monsters of all time, you do a dance:
I'd like to go out on a limb and say that perhaps The HERO is doing a dance whose name sounds suspiciously similar to the name of this game... but I won't. Idle speculation on my part will do no one any good. It could be any dance at all; or it could be none at all.
On to Frankenstein's Castle. This stage introduces the concept of Drop-Down Zones. On the far left and right hand side of each platform is a gray thing that, if you stand on it and press down, you fall through to the platform below.
There's only one candle, and it's on the very bottom floor, while the cross/sword is positioned roughly in the middle of the stage (very much as Drac's cross/sword was). The small enemies in this stage are Wolf Man looking things. Maybe that's why they couldn't get him to be the third big bad; he and his family were already working for Frankenstein and couldn't be let out of their contracts to star in their own level.
We finally get a good look at the man himself, the big bad, Frankenstein's Monster:
Oh, my god, he's adorable! He's just the cutest thing! I guess he didn't have his back turned to us in the opening screen as a form of protest against Chameleon Man being let into the Legendary Monster Club. I guess he had his back turned so that we wouldn't be able to see what a cute baby face he has. I just wanna tickle his chin and give him milk and cookies.
But that's only what I want do to... The HERO has other plans, plans involving a candle, a cross/sword, and a SUPERZAP, and finally an horribly painful melting death for our cute-as-a-button Frankenstein's Monster:
The HERO watches the poor monster melt and then does another dance. Now I feel bad.
Just in time for Chameleon Man's Graveyard! This level is very, very different from the first two. There are no platforms. There are no ladders or teleportation doors or drop-down zones. In fact this level switches from being side-view to being straight-down view, looking down at the playing field from above. The level is laid out kind of like a Pac-Man style maze. The candle is in the very middle of the level and the cross/sword is at the very top of the screen.
The level, besides being littered with gravestones and brick walls, also has brightly-colored fences in green, red, and blue. Kind of unusual for a graveyard to have such cheerful decor, but oh well. The purpose of these fences isn't clear right away, until you notice that there are three circles on the ground of the level that are also colored green, red, and blue. Do you know what's coming? Yes, that's right. When you run over one of the colored circles, the color of the ENTIRE ground changes to match it. When this happens, the fences that also match the color cease to be. You can walk right through the spaces they used to occupy. So there's some strategy to this level as to which color you want the ground to be, depending on which passageways you want to be able to slip through while the matching-colored fences are in oblivion.
Here's the blue ground:
And here's the red ground:
Here's the thing about this level: Your enemy is the Chameleon Man, right? And you've got a level where the background changes color. "Gee," you think to yourself, "I bet Chameleon Man can change to match the background color, and you have to change it in order to be able to see him."
Well, boys & girls, you could not be more WRONG. Not only is Chameleon Man not rightly one of the legendary monsters, he's also a COMPLETE IDIOT. He changes color when you change the ground color all right, but he changes so that he DOESN'T match the ground—ever! He's the only chameleon that actually wants you to see him!
His level is also an absolute bitch. It's got these nasty little bug things running around that are hard to shoot with your regular zap. The candle is in an awkward location. Chameleon Man himself is wicked fast. But he dies just the same after a SUPERZAP.
And then what time is it, boys & girls? Time to do a dance:
The "Monster Bash" anyone?
After that you go back to Dracula's House and start the game over. It's pretty much exactly the same this time... except once again Chameleon Man's level is different. And I mean different as far as the fact that the multi-colored fences are in a different arrangement than the first time you played through. Jeez! Drac and Frankie should be disgusted that so much effort went into Chameleon Man's stage whereas their two levels are pretty much almost the same.
Monster Bash is actually a very charming little game. It's kind of refreshing to be able to play a game that you can "beat" in a couple of minutes. The graphics are very fun and cartoony, even though you can't really tell if The HERO is supposed to be a boy or a monkey. The play control is a little sticky at times, especially if you try to change direction and shoot quickly in that direction. Especially if you try that in Chameleon Man's Graveyard. The cartoony feel of the game kind of negates any horror that could have been generated by the inclusion of the likes of Dracula and Frankenstein's Monster, but it suits itself just fine. It certainly doesn't seem like just another carbon copy of all the other games that were out around 1982. It has its own charm and character all the way, baby!
I'm not at all sure about the legal issues involved in this, but if you want to play Monster Bash, you can click here to download the ROM, which you can then play on an emulator of some sort. Go on. If it turns out that people don't want me to do this, I'll take it down.
I see now that the thermometer in my office reads 83 degrees, and my popsicle has ceased to exist. I will therefore bid you au revoir.